Music Reviews

Noise Unit: Deceit / Struktur

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Aug 12 2016
Artist: Noise Unit
Title: Deceit / Struktur
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Artoffact
This digital re-release of a 1989 Wax Trax 12" feels strangely transitional in hindsight. The angsty, vaguely gothic, barely-distinguishable vocals of 80's unrest are tempered by a bright, energetic production which feels like it's beginning to transform into 90's pop and house music. Bill Leeb has changed musical direction a few times in his career and these two 27-year-old tracks feel like they were recorded in the middle of a musical re-think. Unfortunately it's a curiosity rather than essential listening though, but a welcome way to fill a gap in a collection.

Pleasure Symbols: Pleasure Symbols

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Aug 10 2016
Artist: Pleasure Symbols
Title: Pleasure Symbols
Format: 12"
Label: Avant
This is the debut EP from the Australian duo of Phoebe Paradise and Jasmine Dunn. The tracks on the flip side, "Ultra Violence" and "Control", were released digitally in 2014, but technically it's still a debut.

It's pop music but not as most people would know it. While their promo photos suggest something a little more modern and alt-pop, sonically this owes a lot to 1980's alternative music- thick, cold guitar twangs channeling Joy Division, uber-simple drum patterns, distinctly analogue-ish synths and a raw, live feel to the use of reverb in the production. The lyrics are barely distinguishable and it's deeply sincere and straight-faced. It's "Control" that shows the greatest pop sensibility of the set and leaves you wondering what would happen if you pumped this band full of caffeine and let them loose.

It's not oozing in originality either in the sonic arrangement or the songwriting, but it's still a worthy, deeply chin-stroking lo-fi release full of angst and nihilism, for teenagers who've inherited their parents' genetic disposition towards post-punk rebellious goth-pop, regardless of whether their parents have admitted it to them yet or not.
Artist: X-NAVI:ET (@)
Title: Dead City Voice / Remix Project
Format: CD
Label: Instant Classic (@)
Rated: *****
As some of our readers maybe know, I have my misgivings about remixes album or remixes project. In this case, I should have better put them aside, even if I received it after months of its official release. Moreover the source for remixers - all prominent names of the underground scene - was so good (the astonishing album "Dead City Voices" by HATI founder Rafa Iwaski a.k.a. X-Navi:Et - maybe his real masterpiece -) that could belong to that kind of stuff that doesn't really need any further treatment. Apart from the delay, I think you should be able to find this collection of six remixes (one for each track of the original album) yet. Maybe the most predictable choices for the makeup of the original tracks were made by Peter Votava aka Pure on "Mutagenocidecadentia" - even if his way of saturating the void a drone of an almost flat frequency by noisy particles is brilliant - and Stara Rzeka (alias of Polish multi-instrumentist Kuba Ziolek and member of Alameda Trio together with Iwaski), who rerouted the obsessively pleasing "Tinnitus Auris" towards 70ies-like guitar-driven psychedelia territories (anyway a sensually fitting choice). Another interesting re-routing is the one by Yannick Franck, who inoculated "1 + 1 = !" (one of the highlights of the original album) into the claustrophobic confinement of an entrancing dark-industrial drone, which is consistent with his sonic researching, but maybe quite far from the sound of its source. The most slamming tracks of "Dead City Voices" ("Schism" and "Luna 369 Park") have been respectively handled by Z'EV, who dissolved the original track into a sort of mesmerizing aural fog, and Mirt, who turned the corrosive properties of the source into a catchy jewel of analog ambient, whose ethereal sounds gradually mutate into a sort of fainting thunder. Last but not least, the additional recipes (distorted field recordings and other encrypted - more or less sinister - resounding entities) that Rapoon put in the hallucinatory and slightly disquieting spleen of "Garden Paradox".

Velvetine: Crematorial Dance

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jul 31 2016
Artist: Velvetine (@)
Title: Crematorial Dance
Format: CD + Download
Label: Facthedral's Hall (@)
Rated: *****
Yet one more from the French Facthedral's Hall label. Formed in the 90's under the name Septembre Noir, the band changed its name in 2006 to Velvetine. Band member are: Peache (Pierre-Henri Mandine) on guitars + manufactured instruments; Stef.a (Stefan Mandine) on lead vocals + guitar; and Le K. (Marc Reina) on electronic percussion. Their debut album, 'Septembre' was released in 2007 and they followed that up with several EPs and a couple of videos, so 'Crematorial Dance' is their second full-length release. I wasn't able to preview much of 'Septembre,' but from the little I've heard 'Crematorial Dance' is much father along the path. Opening with "Far Away," Velvetine sets a strong dark tone with this impassioned creeper. Part of Stef's vocals are in French, and part in English, but you'll have no trouble getting the gist of the alienation and angst. At first, I thought this reminds me of some metallish dark alternative band whose name escapes me... The second track, "Ulan Bator" (sung completely in French) made the inevitable comparison much clearer - Bauhaus. It's not only Stef's sort of vocal similarity to Peter Murphy, but also the psychodramatic intensity of the band's musical style. It became even more evident on "Along the Way". The mood and phrasing, very Bauhaus, but still very French. These guys may not be Goth, but the maudlin music and lyrics should perk up the ears of every goth and emo who hears it. To wit, on "L'Immeuble" - "I don't know who I am, I don't know who you are, I don't care for myself..." While it may seem almost a parody taken out of context, Stef's impassioned delivery makes it real. The music is as simple and uncluttered as Bauhaus, yet refined in ways Bauhaus never was, and often fragile and poetic as on "Broken Harp." Velvetine cooks up a real NIN-style stomper on "Resolution," and kicks it up a notch or three on "The Shuttle." The rhythm aspect of this band is interesting too; Le K. uses a programmed drum base while he manually plays percussion over the top. The dense, distorted guitar give the music a metallish aura, but it's really far from metal. I really like that the lyrics are in both French and English; it is surely a refreshing approach to this type of music. The exception though is the last track, "Maha Mritunjaya," a Great Death-Conquering Mantra from the Indian Rigveda. Velvetine puts it across with aplomb and a forceful dramatic flair. Way cool!

'Crematorial Dance' is an album that can't help but grow on you. In fact, during the course of listening to the music (for a fifth time) for this review, I'm upping the rating half-a-star because it's just that damn good. Copies are limited to 500. Obviously I have mine. I wouldn't wait to get yours if I were you. Highly recommended!

Ultraphallus: The Art of Spectres

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Industrial Music / Industrial Metal / Aggro Industrial / Electro Metal
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jul 15 2016
Artist: Ultraphallus
Title: The Art of Spectres
Format: CD
Label: Sub Rosa (@)
Rated: *****
After a couple of self-produced albums - "Lungville" (2005) and "The Clever" (2008), being the latter the one which included most interesting ideas, even if partially listened in the 90ies in the stuff of bands like Starfish Enterprises - and an album - "Sowberry Hagan" (2010) - on the English label Riot Season, the Liege-based Belgian band Ultraphallus -made up of Phil Maggi (vocals, samples, electronics, trumpet, percussion...maybe some Chain DLK readers met his name as he signed some outputs on Idiosyncratic, a label I keep on following, wisely managed by Phil himself), Julien Bockiau (bass, drums), Xavier Dubois (guitar, bass), Ivan Del Castillo (bass) - moves towards intriguing and definitively more experimental stylistic rough terrains. Even if there are many common factors with so-called sludge metal bands (mainly some political and sociological issues, developed as if they got filtered through a cynical lens and a visionary distorting one, abrasive guitars close to stone rock and shouts that featured former outputs of the band), I won't label - thank goodness! I would have already skipped all tracks... - them as a proper sludge band. On this album, whose output was initially announced for the beginning of 2015, they wisely melt death core, doom metal, noise, art-rock, dark ritual ambient, music of western movies, deviant declensions of blues (check the second part of "Let Him Be Alistair") and electronic movie music and replaced avalanches of riffs that featured some of their previous outputs by pernickety jobs on guitar-driven spindles. I could vaguely describe them as a strange hybrid between an abstract interpretation of Ramesses' music and some stuff coming from Gent-based label Delboy (Blutch, Black Cobra and so on). The hyper-amplified convulsive guitar-driven opening "The Blood Sequence", where the really spectral voice by Phil Maggi seems to give voice to a personal manifesto, sounds like the appetizer of the piercing sound by which they drill the almost tribal mantra of "Madrigal Lane", the hyper-cynical debunking hymn of the above-mentioned "Let Him Be Alistair". The track in the middle of the album, "The Death of Mark Frechette", evokes some stuff by The Residents, but the choice of the reference - Mark Frechette was the American actor that became notorious after interpreting the leading role in Antonioni's "Zabriskie Point", who died in prison after having been suffocated by a barber that fell on his neck... - sounds like a merciless grin on the jokes of fate. The spleen of "Whitewasher" precede the likewise cynical sad portray on "Eva Ionesco" (the well-known baby model), and the ghostly feast of the final "Sinister Exaggerator" are some of the highlights of an assay of spectral art.

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